Six on Saturday: catching up

The unexpected gift of a warm and sunny fortnight means I should be way ahead or at least on top of my gardening. After all, it is still only February. But even after a whole week off work, it is hard not to notice the number of plants needing to be planted. So a quick six while the morning is still misty and before I knuckle down and catch up. As always, lots of interesting sixes to be found via The Propagator

First up are the 3 pretty cyclamen coum which happened to find their way into my trolley when buying compost earlier this week. They were stranded in the van and are now losing patience on the step still waiting to go into the shady border. Today for sure.

Cyclamen coum

Next are the ranunculus, not sure which variety now, but bought in bulk and planted up in pots in late Autumn. They are also still waiting to be planted in the earth and are destined for the plot where I grow my cut flowers.

Ranunculus needing more space

Third are the anemones which happily are planted in mushroom crates – their final destination. They have been sheltering in the greenhouse over the Winter, but are now getting some fresh air in the open (because it’s broken) cold frame. Looking forward to their blue loveliness.

Anenomes unfurling

Blue loveliness sums up the attraction of Echinops ritro which has the brightest of blue flowers and is a magnet for butterflies and bees. Clumps of it have spread thicker at the allotment and in the Autumn they were ready to be divided. My north facing garden is not as good a home for it, but hoping it which catch enough sun at the back to survive.

Echinops looking ready for Spring

Number 5 is also a job which needs doing today and that is to plant up the hazel, wild rose and spindle whips bought to plant around the fences to support wildlife, particularly birds, butterflies and bees. Didn’t need persuading that this is important, but the excellent ‘The Bumblebee Flies Anyway’ by Kate Bradbury gave me a reminder and an extra push and focus.

Much more than a bag of sticks

Last of all is a recent discovery which, like Kate Bradbury’s book, has made me think more and more about how much I want to make the garden wildlife friendlier. Awake early, but not ready to get up, the wonderful podcast, Growing Wild presented by Charlotte Petts eased me into the day  

growing wild

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A Greenhouse Six

It has been a long time since life was calm enough for a Saturday Six and to warm up gently for the rest of the year’s efforts, this one is focused inside and under cover.

The rain and wind have been blustering and rolling around the greenhouse for days; inside, though dry and still, it is definitely not warm. No real encouragement then to spend much time inside it sowing seeds or potting on. There seems to be more of a need for the latter than I had realised as Autumn sown seedlings are quietly outgrowing their pots.

Number 1: Autumn sown Antirrhinum potomac ivory

The late Summer cuttings are also needing to be moved on into their own (or bigger) pots and there have been surprisingly few casualties considering the dramatic drops in temperature.

Number 2 are the cuttings of Jamaican Primrose which have all taken despite the slapdash way I treated the cuttings – taking them late and just poking them into multi purpose compost. They were my favourite plant of all last year and am looking forward to planting a ribbon of them through my garden this year. They are tender, but are extremely long flowering- even coping with some light early frosts. Their soft yellow daisy flowers are truly lovely.

Just 4 of the many cuttings of Argyranthemum ‘Jamaica Primrose’ marguerite

Number 3 are also Autumn sowings and these are the very healthy looking ridifolia or false fennel. This is a first and I am hoping they will look fresh and green in flower too.

Ridifolia sown in Autumn and potted on once

Caught again in that February indecision and the conflicting messages from experts, seed packets and books about what should and shouldn’t be sown. There is that nagging February anxiety that if I don’t do lots now it will be too late. There is also the clear memory of window sills crammed with tomato, aubergine and chilli plants, during last year’s late Spring and delayed Summer, which got bigger and bigger and finally a bit overwhelming as the greenhouse got fuller and the weather stayed obstinately cold.

But looking round the greenhouse, of course I have already planted more than I think. Number 4 are the germinating Broad Bean seeds elbowing their way out into the light.

Broad beans heading for the allotment when they can stand up for themselves

Number 5 are the almost as lusty seedlings of Cobea scandens which will add a touch of glamour to my fences this year.

By the end of the Summer these will be reaching for the sky

Last for this week’s Six are the Anenomes just coming in to flower in their crates. The first one, white and gently unfurling, is such a sign of optimism for Spring when it feels and sounds so much like Winter.

An optimistic splash of white sheltered inside.

While this Six has been sheltering inside, I am sure there will be many more Sixes out and about braving the elements. Just take a look over at the The Propagator’s blog

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January Colour

Seven months since the last blog post and it is Winter again. It is cold, but not barren; the garden is not just its bare bones – there are already hellebores, snowdrops and even an optimistic primrose or two in flower. The frosts knocks them down every so often, but so far they have just popped up later. All of them have been quietly doing my job for me: increasing their numbers from the one or two original plants and a sprinkling of bulbs in a dark corner to splashes of colour almost the length of the border . Not a label or a name to identify them by now, but they are very welcome in this obdurate month when the light lasts longer each day, but Spring isn’t even close.

Established, self seeded hellebores

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Six on Saturday

The busiest time of year in the garden and the busiest time of the year in my job. The wilting, erratically watered plants at the plot, allotment and around my house are only just hanging on. Last weekend’s blistering heat nearly saw them and my gardening mojo off. So no time for a Six then, or even worse to read many. Below is my quick Six for today while over at ThePropagator there will be many delights to explore.

Time poor and pressed, with the garden needing my concentrated attention, last weekend I spent my time doing something entirely different. I snuck off to read. A life long character flaw which refuses to be mended. But the pleasure of reading Allan Jenkins’ short book ‘Morning’ with its vivid and intensely evocative descriptions of his different gardening spaces in the early morning did have a positive outcome. I got up at dawn 3 mornings in a row and gained more than the extra hours.


Next is the first flower of the Jamaican primrose which grew from a cutting taken from Derry Watkins’ garden on a propagating course at Special Plants. Just managed to keep this alive through Winter before planting it. Am hoping the sun and warmth will cure its sickliness. If healthy it should grow to a metre high. Hope so – it’s lovely.

Jamaican primrose

Yesterday was another sneaking off – this time to the Spring Show at Malvern with all its temptations. One of the stall I seek out is Hardy’s. Its display is always beautiful with inspiration for unexpected plant combinations and there is always something new. Number 3 is just one of the display’s gold winning lovely sides:


Fourth is the delicate beauty of this aquilegia nestled in at the front of the Hardy’s display,


Fifth is another new plant to me at Avon Bulbs – a sparkling camassia, a deeper and darker blue than mine at home

Avon bulbs

camassia leichtlinii Maybelle

Difficult to know what to end on, but perhaps the free, self sown, lacy loveliness of orlaya grandiflora which opened up its flowers in my front garden this week.

orlaya grandiflora

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Six on Saturday

Back to cooler temperatures this week and, looking on the bright side, it has meant that the tulips have lasted a little longer. Rain has also granted a rest from the rescue watering of last weekend. Some of this Six’s pictures are taken from my warm and dry kitchen, but I did venture out for a few, before sheltering in the greenhouse.

Right outside my kitchen window, and now properly in leaf , are a collection of acers; some in pots and others in the ground  – all enjoying the shade. Those  we’ve planted seem to accommodate themselves to the clay too and are getting bigger every year though their names have long been forgotten.


Outside at the end of the garden and alongside the greenhouse there are some of my favourite tulips looking fine in a sea of blue – the forget me nots in their prime. The beautiful Ballerina comes back every year, but Angelique has surprised me by returning in healthy loveliness after being poor in its first year. Next autumn there is going to be a big splash out on tulip bulbs to ensure they pop throughout the entire spread of blue at the bottom of the garden. The random dark Queen of the Night look good too.


Next is inside the greenhouse and, carefully avoiding the leggy tomatoes and the slightly chewed chillies, the courgettes are looking robust and happy. Probably shouting out to be re potted, but being ignored for today.

courgette defender

Courgette Defender

Fourth, on the steps just outside the kitchen door, is a pretty viola bought from Special Plants; a gentler and pinker version of the Viola Corsica grown from seed in the Autumn. They are both lovely. So too is the simple (and edible) Viola Heartsease.


Then next is just one of the many healthy divisions of Centaurea Jordy which seem to be doing well in their pots.

scabiosa Jordy

And last of all, is this shot of my garden today from the kitchen window (washing line included). Last week’s star, the Amelanchier, lost its blossom overnight and has moved out of the spotlight for the carpet of blue.

back garden 2

Looking forward to looking at other Sixers’ highlights this weekend over at The Propagator’s blog.

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Six on Saturday

An explosion of Spring with three hot days in a row has meant that all the loveliness that seemed to be on hold has just burst out in unbelievable exuberance. Blossom and blue skies and heat makes it feel as if the garden is hurtling forward at speed. Am guessing that cooler weather will come and slow it all down, but today feels almost dizzy with the speed of change. Last Sunday couldn’t feel my cold toes at the Farmers market; this week a little burned by the sun. A bit late in the day for my six and so if you pop over to The Propagator by now there should be a whole lot of other Sixes to enjoy.

So first of all is the reliable, but glamorous Abu Hassan tulip which seems to come back healthily every year despite neglect and clay soil. At the allotment it pushes itself up through heavy clay which might make it slightly daintier year on year, but it is still very striking.

flowers 083

Next are the boughs of arching white on the Spirea Bridal Wreath. This is its moment of  eye catching perfection.

flowers 101

Third is a bit of a repeat, but the tapestry of Narcissus Pipit, Thalia and Hawera in varying shades of yellow, cream and white is simple and prettily cheerful outside my front door. They’ll soon be gone.

flowers 094

Today the Amelanchior could not be more beautiful and the blossoms are relishing the sun.

flowers 099

Fifth are the sweetpeas planted at the plot against the metal grid which is one of my favourite things. No pesky netting to get tangled up in, just a solid and attractive support. So actually number 5 is the grid not the sweetpeas.

flowers 090

Last are the blue cornflowers I am growing for a wedding later this year. These are at the plot, but they also appear at the allotment and will be in my own garden. This is the only must have flower requested by the bride. Every time one tray germinates, the next gets sown. Hoping this will guarantee buckets of blue.

flowers 092

Lets hope I can protect these young plants from the onslaught of slugs. Nothing is growing as prolifically in my garden as they are this Spring.

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Six on Saturday

One of the many positives of gathering together a Six on Saturday is the way it helps pin down the weather and its patterns. When  growing up I couldn’t completely understand the fixation my Welsh farming mother had on this. But I didn’t have to get up in the middle of the night for lambing or worry about healthy hay. Now in the middle of England and not near a wet and windy coast, I  have my own harvest to grow: flowers for a wedding. A long way off, but March’s cold delay means I am not feeling as relaxed about it as  in February. So keen weather watching has begun.

That leads me into number one, the small patch used for growing flowers in my friends’ large field. Its heavy clay was too dank and cold to work until this week when the sun came out. Out too have popped the nettles and docks, but yesterday weeding them with warmth on my back it was difficult to mind.


The beginnings of weeding

Next is another outside my own garden – a trip to Hidcote. Perhaps too early for my partner as not so much to see, but for me looking at the early Spring bulbs and the paths and supports in the Kitchen garden was satisfying enough – lots of ideas to take home. As well as a few plants…


Not sure if I can replicate this cat’s cradle for my flowers.

My clashing primulas are a source of pleasure everyday on the steps outside the kitchen. Dunberg and Valentine need to be kept apart, but they are eye catchingly cheerful.

It may be getting late to include daffodils (or narcissus); perhaps for most people the baton has firmly been given to  tulips, but this week old and new favourites have finally bloomed. Hawera is a new one for me and daintily beautiful. Thalia is an old love and, yes, they have been a bit beaten by the weather (and probably the slugs too), but that wouldn’t stop me having a whole garden of them and maybe next year I will.

Fifth is a pot I found lurking, forgotten at the back of the greenhouse under a shelf. A martagon lily, Claude Shride which seems to have flourished in neglect.


It is often frustrating to recognise what an absent minded gardener I can be. Sometimes though there can be happy unintended accidents. So I did mean to plant up the smaller pot with tulips and Sweet Williams, but when the Autumn grown coriander plugs were slipped into a large pot, the tulip bulbs underneath had been forgotten. Never mind, they seem to have made room for each other quite well. Much more intended gardening over at the Propagator’s blog where the ever increasing Sixers share their gardening knowledge generously.

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Six on Saturday

So wet surely the ground cannot soak up any more water, but still it rains. Not sure I should contribute this Saturday in my current mood of sulky gloominess, but here goes with a more than slightly soggy Six.

But first a cheerful, hopeful start indoors with a book, bought this week, that I hope is going to kickstart an improvement in the planning of my garden: Christopher Lloyd’s ‘Succession Planting’. Bought after attending an absolutely brilliant and inspiring talk by Fergus Garrett about planting for all year interest at Great Dixter. Too busy concentrating on the beautiful slides of that garden to take many notes, so that’s where the book comes in. There are too many stuttering gaps with not much interest at all in my own garden and I am hoping that I can learn how to improve this. A long term project.


Next up are, on the edge of flowering and guaranteed to cheer me up, the anemone blanda snug in their terracotta pots and taking  temporary shelter from the rain in the greenhouse.


Also in there are the various tender plants that have multiplied beyond the capacity of my windowsills. Chillies Joe’s Long Cayenne and Submarine;  the small aubergine Slim Jim and cigar length cucumber Diva along with tomatoes, Stupicke, Black Krim, Sungold and Principe Borghese  Just hoping they spurt into more solid growth when (or if) the weather improves.


Surviving, despite the wet and cold, are the surprisingly healthy looking small plants of Iceland poppy. Tentatively sown in the Autumn from a packet of old seed, they have survived my consistent Winter neglect and when the ground is a little more welcoming, it will be time to plant them out.


Five are the quick growing Cosmos Dazzler which will soon need potting on. Their deep and lovely pink is a real favourite late in Summer.


Finally are the unexpected buds of tulips planted for cut flowers two years ago which seemed to have disappeared, but here they are in the corner of a bed. Of course, can’t remember what they are called, but it doesn’t really matter as I am sure they will look absolutely lovely, especially if the now absent sun comes back to shine on them. Many more cheerful Sixes at The Propagator I’m sure, if you make your way over there – you won’t even need your wellies.



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Six on Saturday

A milder and definitely more Spring like feel to this week’ s Six after another white out last Saturday. Not a promising start to my  Farmers Market year, travelling there through snow and ice. Today there is rain so the almond blossom won’t have a blue sky to intensify it. So here then are my garden related Six. There will be many other fine Sixes to enjoy if you follow the links at The Propagator.

So first is the early and delicate pink of the almond blossom which is simply beautiful even in the grey of today.


Next are forget me nots the first among the selfseeders which are allowed too much of their own way in my garden, but there are times when they are just right despite their unruliness. And that time is coming soon. There is a narrow window between the forget me nots being a dreamlike blue haze covering up all the garden’s inadequacies before turning into a smothering carpet. A gardening friend cannot stand them, but I can forgive them anything for the week or two when they are perfect.

Another beautiful Spring plant which is choosing to multiply enthusiastically in the back corner of the garden is lunaria corfu blue grown from seed bought from Special Plants. Usually it teams up with the lovely cow parsley-like chaerophyllum, but this year they are going to miss each other I think.

27299299-EE45-4FE5-BAEF-D69CC7708E60 (1)

The last self seeder for today is the angelica which went and now has come back. Still making up my mind whether I want it to stay.


Fifth are the germinating cucumber seeds –  the diva variety which are small, tasty and prolific if the sun shines on them.


Last of all, is a problem: the yew which was a greedy buy last year when it somehow popped itself into the van as I was helping a friend pick up her larger and grander yews from the beautiful Waterperry. Had no plan for it, though was vaguely hoping for the organic  soft mounded effect much admired in a Malvern Show garden a few years ago where it seemed to fit in so well. So far it hasn’t moved from the big pot it was placed in  when I got it home. Desperate to give it a purpose, it was dressed in tiny sparkling lights at Christmas, but can’t think where to put it in my ramshackle, informal (aka messy) garden and certainly have no idea or skill  to help turn it into piece of topiary. But it can’t stay in its pot forever.

A green Six this week, but the small splashes of colour are promises of brighter days.

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Plotting a Wedding

Recently I was offered my first chance to grow wedding flowers and with some (realistic) trepidation have accepted. So now the planning begins. What a responsibility, but how exciting to have a definite focus to work towards. Just what I need as Spring is so stubbornly refusing to cooperate. The date is early August so this should give me lots of time for planning  and successional sowing once I have decided exactly what it is I should grow.

The brief from my daughter’s lovely friend is very open, but definitely must include cornflowers – lucky then that I already have  Autumn and early Spring planted plants. Will just need to keep this going.


Lets hope this year’s cornflowers are as lovely as last

Couldn’t sleep on the first night after taking up the offer for thinking about  larkspur and nigella. Almost got up in the dark to sow some. In daylight, it was clear that some calm planning was necessary. Even a mood board perhaps – never done one in my life, but now might be the moment. Want to give the bride an idea of the different possibilities before it is too late to sow them. So far, along with the cornflowers, nigella & larkspur (white and blue) I am thinking dill and ammi (I do have some Autumn sown in pots) and fail safe cosmos. Also hoping that I will be able to keep my sweetpeas going until then.


Cosmos Dazzler

But what about the impact flower? Possibilities include dahlias, roses if they are still flowering at the plot and sunflowers.


Roses at the plot

Stuck indoors with the last of the snow lingering, I sent off a flurry of seed orders. The very opposite of the careful planning that was needed. Scabiosa in all its guises seems to be my current obsession and the sturdy, Autumn sown Black Cat and (perhaps more appropriate for a wedding) Blue Cushion plants give a head start.

So over four months of planning, propagating and plotting to go which is a very fine prospect indeed.


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